For athletes training for this year's Summer Olympics in Rio, a grueling training schedule is a given. But for some, the financial sacrifices needed to become an Olympic athlete can be just as arduous.
"The financial obligations to the athletes are really challenging. They have the same cost of living as any 20- to 30-year-old," said Glenn Merry, CEO of USRowing, the nonprofit organization that works to train Olympic rowers. "You have to pay for an apartment or find some place to live free. You have to be able to pay for enough groceries to consume 5,000 to 7,000 calories a day, which is three times what normal person is eating."
The men's and women's Olympic rowing teams train in Princeton, N.J., where the cost of living is high for the athletes. ''Their stipends are really very meager. They can't cover the costs of living in Princeton," Merry said. Stipends paid to the athletes range from $600 to $1,700 a month. In Princeton, the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is just over $1,800, according to Trulia.com.
USRowing works with the community to try to find the athletes free housing and flexible jobs to cover their expenses. "We don't make a lot of money. You don't hear many of us complain," said Henrik Rummel, a member of the men's Olympic team. "It's definitely something we accept going into it. It's very difficult to try make an actual living on your own."
Rummel, who was a medalist in the most-recent Olympics, is eager to go for the gold this year in Rio. At 29, he's already accomplished more than most, and not just on the water. Rummel graduated from Harvard University, earning a degree in applied mathematics. He has been working at Sword Rowe, a boutique investment bank in Princeton.
"We do a lot of middle market advisory, M&A, and fundraising. I started as an analyst. I'm now an associate, but the last couple months its been part time," said Henrik, who had to put his career on hold to manage a full-time training schedule. "I felt, especially with the physical toll because you're training so much, it was really difficult,' he said.
USRowing also works with the community to try to find free housing and flexible jobs for the athletes during training. "The training commitment is 8 to 10 hours a day, so they're already working a full-time job seven days a week to make the Olympic gold medal position," Merry explained.
Athletes like Rummel will soon learn if all the training and financial sacrifices were worth it. Winning another medal would mean the world to Rummel, who says this will be his last Olympics.